Perfecting Friendship: Politics and Affiliation in Early American Literature

Perfecting Friendship: Politics and Affiliation in Early American Literature

Perfecting Friendship: Politics and Affiliation in Early American Literature

Perfecting Friendship: Politics and Affiliation in Early American Literature

Excerpt

Over the carnage rose prophetic a voice,
Be not dishearten'd, affection
shall solve the problems of freedom yet,
Those who love each other
shall become invincible,
They shall make Columbia victorious.
—Walt Whitman,
"Over the Carnage Rose
Prophetic a Voice,"
Leaves of Grass

I would suggest, as a corrective
to Freud, that it might be more
useful, and more accurate, to
think of politics as originating
not in proximity but in distance,
not in similitude but in difference,
or in the difference that makes a
fantasy of similitude possible. To
be "like" the other is to be different
from the other, to be precisely not
the same…. Politics thus emerges
not out of sameness but out of the
noncoincidence between self and
other that gives rise to a desire
for an illusory sameness.
—Diana Fuss, Identification Papers

In 1862, a black servant named Addie Brown who worked in households in Connecticut and New York wrote to her friend Rebecca Primus, the daughter of a prominent black family from Hartford, rapturously recommending a novel she had just read (Griffin 59). The book was Woman's Friendship; A Story of Domestic Life, published posthumously in 1848 by the Anglo-Jewish writer Grace Aguilar, which first appeared in New York in 1850. Eager to impress her well-educated correspondent (after the war, Rebecca was one of many black Northerners who went south to teach in schools for freed slaves), Addie quotes breathlessly, running the sentences together without punctuation. In the scene she cites from the novel's opening pages, Mrs. Leslie, the matron of an impoverished though genteel family living in Devonshire, England, gently chides her "irrepressible" daughter Florence not to count on the future of . . .

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